It turns out my trans-narrative is darker than I’ve been telling it.
My stock explanation of why it has taken me so long to express my gender-truth has been that somewhere around age five I made a fateful decision to try to please my parents and the world by being the best possible male I could be. I have also surmised that I made this choice after showing my nascent femininity to my mother and having it made clear to me that whatever I was doing was for girls and that I was a boy. Mind you, I don’t remember either such a decision or such a scene with my mother, but this story has felt psychologically and emotionally true. Things to note about this version: it rejects the idea that I was abused; and it assumes at least some self-awareness on my part.
The new version still rejects the abuse theory, but it involves less self-awareness and more emotional turmoil. My source is a packet of notebooks which I have carried around with me since college. Into these journals, during my sophomore year, at the suggestion of a counselor, I released a burden of repressed emotion unexpressed up to that time; and recently, for the first time since writing them, I have been reading them again.
I can’t go into details. It is still too raw, and besides, there’s enough material for a book. In general, the journals alternate between defensive intellectualizing and the spewing of pent up rage, grief, hatred and self-hatred, guilt...and unexpressed love. I can still feel echoes of some of these feelings - being angry at my parents for divorcing, at my father for dying; feeling like I had somehow failed the world and myself and feeling so sorry for that; and also realizing for the first time through writing it how much I loved my family. (One good thing which came out of that therapy was my telling my mother that I loved her. It took months to build up enough courage to do it. I’m so glad, now, that I did.)
There is one thread in those notebooks, though, which I had forgotten. As I wrote them I kept returning to the idea that there was something inside me which I couldn’t access or express; and this thing, whatever it was, felt so black and evil that every time I approached it I recoiled, full of loathing and revulsion. I wrote my gender truth more than once: “I’m mostly female; don’t tell a soul, nobody knows” - but I couldn’t feel the force of truth in these statements. I couldn’t connect them to the awful hidden thing.
So here is my new theory of why and how I repressed my femininity for so long. In my first few years, like all children, I was whirled along in a tornado of elemental emotions: jealousy toward my little brother; sexual attraction to my father (that Freudian chestnut); hatred of my rival for his affections, my mother (likewise); terror in the face of her anger; hunger for love; fear and guilt around these other feelings...and so on. I was a wild passionate vulnerable girl, completely unsocialized - and so, of course, my parents did what parents do: they taught me and and corrected me, and I also taught and corrected myself, to control my deepest emotional impulses.
And here is the key part of this new theory: this teaching was gendered. I learned to survive the maelstrom specifically by being a *good boy.* Then this socialized maleness became my bulwark against the unabated storm inside me, and in later years, the harder that storm raged, the more I clung to the safety of my identity as a rational intellectual man.
All those years I hated, feared, and felt disgusted by my turbulent ungoverned girl-soul. What a wretched way to live. Exhausting too. Fucking eternal vigilance. I’m doing OK, you know...better than OK...but sometimes I do feel so sad and bone-weary. Fuck. :-(